Wright-Phillips glitters but Rangers miss their chance

Queen's Park Rangers 0 Newcastle United 0

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The Independent Football

Tony Fernandes bought Neil Warnock as many players as he could in the last 13 days of the transfer window but the one the new owner of Queens Park Rangers could not deliver was a proven goalscorer and, boy, did it show last night.

A storming debut from Shaun Wright-Phillips? Check. Another golden performance from Adel Taarabt? Check. Fans singing the new owner’s name? Check. A feel-good factor around Loftus Road? Check. Joey Barton throwing his shirt into the crowd? Check. A centre-forward who can tuck away one of the many great opportunities served up to him by Wright-Phillips and Taraabt? Fernandes will have to get back to you on that one.

There was so much to admire in this Rangers performance that at times it was easy to forget that they had failed to score the goal that would make the difference. Jay Bothroyd has one England cap to his name but the hard truth was that if he had finished like an international striker last night he would have left the ground with a hat-trick and the matchball.

It was a match that threatened to be, as Alan Pardew put it, “the Joey Barton show”. Newly installed as the QPR captain, the portents suggested it would be Barton’s night but, his solid performance aside, it was Wright-Phillips’ name that was being sung by the home support at the end of the match. Yet in spite of all that, this was an opportunity missed for QPR.

Barton claimed after the match that if his new team to continue to play the same way they would win enough games to stay in the division. “Keeping a clean sheet in football is class, especially considering we had six new players on the pitch," he said. “We should probably have won the game, but if we keep playing like that we'll win games. We've only been together a few days but good players don't take that long to bond and we'll only get better.

“It is always a little bit weird [playing against his former club] especially given the circumstances in which I left, but that’s football. Ships in the night and all that. Onwards and upwards.”

As for Pardew, it was a point that he did not expect to leave west London with given the barrage of attacks that his team faced in the first half in particular. Nevertheless, it was Newcastle’s third clean sheet of the season and, after four games, they are fourth in the Premier League. In any other circumstances that might be regarded as an auspicious start to the season but watching them last night all you could see ahead were problems.

There is, as Pardew puts it, as “spirit and resilience” about them defensively which was best illustrated by an inspired header off the line by Steven Taylor when Wright-Phillips chipped Tim Krul in the first half. Going forward, however, it is a different story. Pardew acknowledged that “being Newcastle we need to threaten the goal” although it was hard to see how they would do that given their resources.

Leon Best had some good moments in the first half, especially an early save he forced from Paddy Kenny but otherwise this was a timid Newcastle side in attack. Pardew brought on Demba Ba in the second half to little effect and afterwards he diplomatically maintained he was happy with his five strikers. He is pinning a lot of hope on Hatem Ben Arfa who Pardew hopes to have back in the team in two weeks’ time.

"That’s a game we haven’t played great in but we have got a point from it,” Pardew said. “One of the players just said in the dressing room that last season we would probably have lost a game like that.” It was a consolation of a sort, but not much.

There may not have been a goal to separate these two teams but there was no doubt which was heading in the right direction. With Barton, Wright-Phillips, Armand Traore, Luke Young and Anton Ferdinand all making their debuts this was a new QPR team and a new owner in the directors’ box taking the applause of his fans. Warnock said that the “oohs and aahs” he could hear from the fans were what he had always wanted as a manager. “I’ve waited 30 years to have an exciting team.”

At the forefront of it all was Taarabt and Wright-Phillips, the latter of whom did just about everything apart from score a goal. Before last night, Wright-Phillips had played just four Premier League games since the turn of the year in a second stint at Manchester City which fizzled out in much the same way as his Chelsea career. The last of his 36 England caps was 11 months ago and, in the last year, the bright promise that he once exuded in his first spell at City has felt increasingly distant.

Last night Wright-Phillips looked like the tricky, jinking winger that he was in his salad days at City. The best of his performance in the first half was a run onto yet another searching ball from Taraabt which Wright-Phillips got to just a fraction before Fabriccio Coloccini. Despite losing his footing he scampered back to his feet and struck a chipped shot that required Taylor’s saving header.

The chemistry between Wright-Phillips and Taraabt was instantaneous to the extent that not even Bothroyd seemed on the same wavelength. His first miss from a Taraabt-Wright-Phillips combination on 15 minutes was a bad one: from a few yards out he volleyed over. He lunged too late for another cross on 22 minutes. Four minutes later he could not get his feet sorted out quick enough to deal with another Wright-Phillips special rolled into him.

Alejandro Faurlin was also impressive and Newcastle struggled to live with their hosts although they matched them up in midfield in the second half and fared better. The two best second half chances fell to Shaun Derry, booked for a bad foul on Best, and he headed both wide. Better results surely lie ahead for Warnock’s side – but you could not be so certain that the future is quite so rosy for Newcastle.